The Realities of Post-Emo Culture

This post is both a personal story and a personal mission statement-which in all honesty should neither come as a shock or as a surprise.

When I was younger, and by younger I mean in high school, I reached a point so low in my life that for many, the thought occurred that I might not ever come up again. I have made my peace with that time in my life, choosing to try to live in a way that prevents a recurrence, or at the very least, provides a safety net for any time I may “go dark”.

I remember being in weight training class and wearing a hoodie. It was warm in the weight room, and without thinking I pulled up my sleeves. What ensued next is something I won’t forget. There were only four girls in that class, and being one of them I squeezed my way in to the group. There was one person I knew, one person who was very strong and one who, much like me wore black every day, converse and was what the world would consider emo. The girl I knew looked at me strangely then looked away. The girl who looked like me gave me a sad smile and motioned for me to pull my sleeves back down. The strong girl shouted at the top of her lungs (or it seemed like it anyway)  WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! She at least waited until we were back in the changing room before she interrogated me further.

I hurriedly tugged my sleeves down, before anyone else saw what they saw. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, a few weeks later I was turned into the office for the same issue, and that path has since led me here.

I think there’s a common misconception that the group of people a decade ago who listened to My Chemical Romance, Pierce the Veil, Black Veil Brides, Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco and others, those who wore black with multiple studded belts, those who did their eye makeup dark and heavy, those who were pale-almost like goth pale but with occasional neon colors, those who did wild things with their hair faded into the abyss after they reached their twenties.

I think that what people see now are the remains of those people, the “emo kids” who have tattoos, stretched lobes, band shirts or who listen to the same music and remain at the edges of society as a forgotten trend, being assimilated into current culture. There was the “scene” trend which followed after “emo”. There was the grunge-resurgence which is making it’s way now. And yet, there’s a very large issue with this way of thinking.

It’s a pretty accepted belief that some of the trends, some of the behaviors that belonged pretty stereotypically to the “emo” culture have died out with their fashion. By died out I also pretty synonymously mean “grew out of”, as most people think that the things you experience as a teenager and early adult really just don’t stick with you. Like drawing those little S things on your school books or listening to music REALLY loud. But there are plenty of things that stay with you, or could stay with you from your younger years. And I’m going to call on one behavior in particular.

Self-harm.

A 2008 (nearly a decade ago, when emo culture was still very prominent) publication by the US National Library of Medicine reported the following nonsuicidal self injury (NSSI) statistics: 2008 Website

  • 1/3 to 1/2 of US adolescents have engaged in some type of self injury.
  • Cutting and burning are the most common types of non-suicidal self-injury.
  • 70% of teens engaging in self-injury behavior have made at least one suicide attempt.
  • 55% had made multiple suicide attempts.

And here are the statistics from this year: 2016 Website

  • 3%-38% of US adolescents have engaged in some type of self-injury
  • 13%-24% of US high school students have engaged in some type of self-injury
  • Self-injury may occur as young as 7 years of age, but typical age of onset is 12-15 years.
  • Self injury at the college level is reported to be between 30%-40%

You see, the thing that no one talks about is the fact that the people who belonged to the
“emo” culture (and everyone of that same age) grew into the adults who are in college today. And no one says anything about the fact that instead of a generational age limit on self-injury, there is one decade or so of individuals who are still being viciously beset by self-harm.

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–If I could express how much I miss being that weight, with that hair and that impeccable ability to look pissed, I think this picture does it best. This is one of my favorite photos. Period.–

Anyway, what is my point of posting a pre-instagram photo with a blue filter? You see, I once belonged to the group of people who identified (or were identified by others) as emo. And I loved it. It was the only time I ever felt comfortable as a person.

But.

I remember coming across an article somewhere about the realities of self harm in younger adults and thinking:

Wow, no one really talks about this.

And I thought about all the things people really never talk about and knew I couldn’t stay silent. It’s a concern that shouldn’t be brushed off as a phase that people just get over. It’s a real danger and more people should talk about it.

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Make You Proud

As a younger adult with parents still alive and well, something that weighs pretty heavily on my mind is their opinion of me. Since I was very little, I remember desiring above all else to make my parents proud. That can sometimes feel more like a prison sentence than a goal, but it is something I hold very close to my heart. I know that my parents aren’t perfect, but they did the best they knew how, and I may be a little biased in saying that they produced a pretty successful kid (well, technically three of us, but I can’t speak for my brother and sister, now can I?)

When my dad mentioned he was going on a business trip, I volunteered to pick him up from the airport. He has been in negotiations and conferences all weekend and I offered to have him sleep on our couch instead of driving all the way back to his home. What he doesn’t know is that because I knew he was coming over today, I busted some serious tooshie trying to make our apartment moderately presentable, clean and smelling like respectable people live here. I also went with my husband to the store yesterday (because we were desperately low on edible goods) and picked up some things to make my dad the most fancy dinner we can afford. Why?

Because my parents went without a lot of times. I know that. I may not have understood it when I was younger, but I damned sure do now. I know that my dad is pretty stubborn and that he and I have the exact same attitude and that makes for an interesting time (especially when I was a teenager). My parents work hard, they do their best to provide everything for my sister (who is currently the only one living at the house, because she’s still in high school) and I appreciate their struggles and hard work much more now that I am living on my own (ish) than when I was living under their roof. Do I still think some of the things they do are cooky? Sure. I mean, I am from a different generation afterall. But when I offered my dad a place to rest today, I knew I wanted to do something nice.

When my parents helped my husband and I move into our apartment my dad made the comment that I should buy him dinner somewhere as payment. That’s all he ever asks for: a warm meal in exchange for his help. And I know he meant dinner out somewhere. But I know that I can’t afford that right now, so a home cooked meal will have to do.

I tried my best, had my husband taste the meat (cause I really don’t eat meat if I can help it-and haven’t for almost 4 years now), I made a bunch of yummy, wholesome side dishes and I put some coffee on, stuck some Dr. Pepper in the fridge and now I’m waiting. I have no idea when he’ll get here, but I think I’m more excited than he’ll be.

Anyway, all this comes down to one thing: I want to show my parents (but at this very moment my dad) that they raised a successful, well-mannered daughter who understands common decency and thankfulness-but is still full of sass and shenanigans. I don’t want my parents to come visit me and it look like I haven’t done anything but loaf about for months on end. I want them to rest easy knowing that I’m not a complete screw-up. And I hope that’s what I prove.

Now, that’s not to say that either of my siblings are disasters-this all only applies to me and how I see things. Like I said, I can’t speak for either of them. That’s just the way it is.

I started this post last night (obviously) and just wanted to say that dinner went well. I think he understood that I tried my best, and I woke up and made breakfast (another thing I usually don’t do) and it was good. All in all, I think it went okay!

A Day in the Life of…

So normally I try to write about something very near and dear to me, something that isn’t overly political, but is something that I am pretty passionate about. A little while ago, I posted about how I thought it was incredibly wrong to force people to go to college. And today, I want to present the other side. A personal narrative of what it’s like going to college in today’s world. And hopefully, to dispell some college myths. I’ve screen-shotted my proof for numbers, although they are easily available on Google.

I don’t know how many people relate, but it really grinds my gears when I hear “Why can’t you just save up money?” Or “Working through college isn’t that hard.” Or “Back in my day, you could rent an apartment and go to college on a part time job.” These sentences may have been true at one point, and that question may be well-intended, but I believe that they are incredibly un-applicable (inapplicable?) to today’s college generation. This will be, as always, just my experience, mi cuenta. 

Classes began yesterday. And if you live north, so did the snow. I woke up around 620, took the dog out, fixed lunch and made sure my husband was up. While he was finishing getting ready, I ran out to get the car scraped. He locked up and we left for class. The roads were slick, the cars were thick and it added some time to our drive. Rush hour in Ohio always does. We made it to school, and work in my case, and began classes. We got back to home about 12 hours later. The wind blew, but I walked over 2 miles yesterday, and will do so all semester, regardless of weather. And my husband’s walk is almost 4 miles a day. Just to get between classes. We’re both taking upper division classes (stuff meant for graduate students-not undergrad) and we’re trudging along.

Ohio State’s tuition is dependent on where you call home. For me, it has always been Ohio, so I get in-state tuition, as does my husband. For just one of us, it costs $20,144 USD just to attend for one year. That doesn’t include gas, rent, food or supplies. So, living in a big city is pretty expensive. If you say $200 in groceries for 1 person per month, plus $700 per person for rent/utilities per month, plus $100 a month for supplies/gas, that’s $1000 a month PER PERSON on living expenses. **NOTE: I am using the second set of numbers as my reference, because I live off campus in an apartment, so I’m filling in my numbers instead. And that supplies number isn’t adequate, so I’ve included the personal amount to fix it.**

So, in total, it is $20,144 + ($1000 x 12) = $32,144 per person just to go to classes for one full year.

  Two we people’s total is $32,144 x 2 = $64,288 for one year of college. And this is a public, state school. I shudder to imagine a private university. And this number doesn’t include emergencies like a broken down car, hospital trips, doctor visits or any other emergency things. If it did, it would look more like $70,000 USD.

So let’s look at the job markets and such. We’ll take a minimum wage job, because mostly the college population has one of those.  I have included my google search for current, factual information.

 
So, we have $8.10 USD as the minimum wage. So let’s discuss hours. The minimum amount of class time you can have at OSU is 12 credit hours. That, from my understanding means that you will have 12 hours of class per week, or around 3 per class. You can go up to 18 credit hours. So one week has an entire 7 x 24 hours = 168 hours. Suppose you’Re taking the upper limit of credit hours. That is 168-18 right off the bat. So 150 hours of the week is left.

Ohio State recommends that for every 1 hour of class, 3 hours are spent in homework to achieve a passing grade (taken to mean “C”). The picture I have is from the U of Michigan website.

  
(Notice how if you take 18 Credit Hours, it is recommended that you work less than 20 hours.) So to catch us up, we have 150 hours in a week after classes. Now,  18 x 3 = 54 hours. So, 150-54 is 96 hours in a week left. Let’s say that you sleep 8 hours a night. 8 x 7 =56. So you are down to 40 hours a week left. But what about drive time?

It takes us anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour to get to campus, even from where we live, depending on when we leave. So, if we were to leave every day during rush hour (because Ohio is famous for it), it would take an hour both ways. That is 5 x 2 = 10. So if you take that away from the 40 hours you had, you are now down to 30 hours left in the week. Take another 10 from that for dinner/eating each day and you are at 20 hours left for the week.

Suppose you were a scary person and you didn’t ever have any fun what-so-ever and you worked the rest of the 20 hours. You’d have to include the fact that you have to drive there (assuming you don’t get a job on campus while you’re already there. So take an additional 5 hours off of that number for driving to work. You are left with 15 hours to work.

Remember that minimum wage from above? Bring it down here.

$8.10 USD x 15 hours = $121.50 USD before taxes. In my best effort to predict my checks, I use 86% as the amount of the paycheck I will actually get post-taxes. So, if you’re using that too, $121.50 x .86 = $104.49 USD. For the month? That total is $417.96

So. Let’s wrap this up, shall we?

“Why can’t you save money?” Because making $417.96 per month (or $5015.52 a year!) compared to spending $32,144 doesn’t really put much of a dent in my student loans, and to be fair, I use the money I supplement with working a part time job to pay for the emergency stuff (and to apply to grad schools, law schools and register for the entrance exams-which cost $200 a piece).

“Working through college isn’t hard.” Well, as I hope I have illustrated for you, it IS possible to work during college, and I do so. However, I’m not sure I would ever call it easy. I mean, I like being able to work out, grab coffee with my friends and spend time with my husband, but those things take time and make life meaningful so I sacrifice work for them.

“Back in my day, you could rent an apartment and go to college on a part time job.” I’m very happy for you. But with today’s numbers, a part time job barely covers food for my husband and I for the month. (And let me remind you that these numbers did not include birthday presents, Christmas presents, lab fees, parking passes ($800 USD a year), fast food, or any “luxuries” that a person may want.) 

This blog post was not meant to be a “Michelle Complains About College Again!” Rant. That was NEVER my intention.

What I want you to see, maybe even empathize with or understand better is that going to college is a big commitment and what may have been true for older generations during their time, their 20s, is no longer true today. And we should stop using antiquated information to make generalizations about today’s 20-somethings.

And to round us out, here are some memes about college which I find funny and insightful.

   
   

Every Word’s The Same

I have to say

There seems to be a miscommunication

I thought secrets were for the living

But the only secrets are kept in death

If every second lasted just a second longer

Maybe the trust I thought I deserved 

Would shatter before my eyes

Instead of behind my back

My shoulder blades itch, 

Could you move the knife up and to the left?

Or should I just fall on my face

The beauty of the fall is my disgrace

Is that your heartbeat

Or is it just the echo of a chest that’s hollow

Because you’ve been a tin man your whole life

And I guess that makes me the one without courage.

It takes a tribe to raise a kid, but 

Maybe it was a village of idiots.

You thought you were so clever, so sweet

That I could save you from your own disasters 

You should have looked for a parachute

Because this plane’s about to go down.

I never thought it’d come down to this

A thief and a liar, oh but the twist,

We are the same, you and I

Connected by the handcuffed scars on our wrist.

  (Photo from Pinterest!) 

What’s My Age Again?

9 December 1992. It was a cold day in December, flurries and snowflakes abounded and as the sun disappeared, a lunar eclipse kissed the moon. In the chill, the bitter cold of night, there was a silence. A single snowflake fell to the ground, having caught the light of the blood red moon, and the world held its breath. Seconds passed, each one bringing the moon closer to the culmination of the eclipse, the tint caressing the moon with no inclination of saying goodbye. And right as the moon shone brightest, a scream rippled through the stark white hospital. The lights were dim, the sounds of Christmas carols humming through the radio and in a flurried rush, as the snowflakes outside the window, a baby was wrapped in a blanket, the jam-like innards having been sucked from her nose, her bottom having been smacked. That child, covered in goop, being rapidly wiped off and swaddled, was me. I came home in a Mickey Mouse shirt, which my mother graciously lets me keep in my clothes drawer with my socks.
My mother was told she could never have kids. I was both a surprise and a blessing (or so my parents tell me). I’m sure they really had no idea just how many surprises were to come to them on my behalf. I’ve been through every emotion and hair color, I’ve grown fond of coffee (if you couldn’t tell), I fell in love with music. I learned to play almost a dozen instruments, I even thought about being a music major in college, even auditioned. We always put the Christmas tree up after (or on) my birthday). And now, I live with my husband and life has changed so much since my earliest memories.

Last year on my birthday, I anxiously awaited the minute I turned 22 so that I could buy the Taylor Swift song. But as I approached this birthday, I realized that finding a “23” song would be much harder. So I began my search. As the title suggests, I found Blink-182 first and then Jimmy Eats World. But that song just wasn’t enough for me. I’m sure my sister would love for me to claim the R5 song “Wishing I Was 23” but I just can’t connect to it either. Next to reach the chopping block was “23” by Shakira. I’m a huge fan of Shak, and I really thought maybe this song would be it. But I kept looking-just in case. And then I landed on “Waiting” by Jamie Campbell Bower. And I think I have my song. 

Being 23 is already pretty stressful. I have another year just gone. I spent it being sucked down by my cowardice and anxiety, I found myself changing my mind-a lot, and I picked myself up after tons of times being metaphorically beaten down. But it’s gone, for better or worse and I can’t get it back. That’s really something to think about. It’s a scary world out there and I’ve missed another year. Or am I just another year closer to the best me I may ever be?

So my goals for year 23, are personal,more so than they have ever been. I want to break my shell once and for all. I want to get out and meet people, make eye contact and not be afraid of everyone. I want to work out more. Not so I can be skinny, but so I can be healthy. I want to be able to go into the next parts of my life in the best shape I can. I want to do something-like get my book published, or sell a song to a famous person, or even just go somewhere. And more importantly, I want to succeed. Less thana year from now, I’m applying to grad schools and law schools. I want more than anything to get in. I want to smile at the acceptance letter and realize I did it. I want to not be scared to drive. I have a CRAZY story to tell you all sometime about why I have worries driving, but today I shall not get into it. And I want to enjoy life. I don’t need to have “everything”-the perfect body, makeup, hair, and material goods. I just want to spend more mornings looking at the sunrise, more evenings staring up at the heavens and maybe, just maybe, finally learn how to play guitar.

All that I need is to be true to myself. And that is my favorite reason why I’m 23.

So come close, and I’ll scream

Oh just let me be me

And I fail to see

The dark skies aren’t all that dwell inside me

-Jamie Campbell Bower, Waiting

  

Opinionated

When I was young, I was stubborn. My dad knew that one of the best ways to get me motivated was to make me mad. Once I moved half a ton of gravel by myself in an afternoon, because he’d made me so mad. But the thing is, I learned how to use my frustration in beneficial ways. I harness that energy into two things: proving someone wrong, and being productive. And that’s been one of life’s most valuable lessons.

You see, I don’t have everything figured out. I barely have my day-to-day figured out. But that doesn’t stop me from having opinions and ideals about it all. In fact, if anything, I have more opinions than I know what to do with. Some of them are completely harmless (like my pumpkin spice latte obsession that only lasts two months and then I think it’s ludicrous to have one) and some of them are educational (like how I think that history of religion-all religions- should be taught in public school) and some of them are down right political (like my stance on pro life-pro choice, or how I feel about vaccinations). They don’t agree with other people’s, they aren’t the exact same as everyone else’s and they don’t have precise boundaries.

And that’s okay. 

  
I haven’t got everything all figured out. I’m going to be 23 in a matter of weeks. I have a great many years before I become a crone and I know that life has quite a few more lessons for me. But what I do have is passion. And a voice. And that’s why I started this blog, to get the best out of both. 

So if what I say offends you, that’s really unfortunate. I try to be polite in all my interactions, try to be considerate in all things. If I’m genuinely being unreasonable, call me out on it. If what I say causes you to reevaluate your position in the world, I am doing my job. I don’t have to have the same opinions as you, nor the same beliefs and values and for you to demand that of me is both offensive and it shows how immature you are. I’m sure, though, we have some common ground somewhere. We cannot progress as a human collective if we have the same mindset for hundreds of years. We cannot progress if noone ever asks the hard questions and waits for actual answers.  So here’s to progress.

For the past several weeks I have been focusing on mental health. Not only has it been awareness month and prevention, but because it is a big button for me. However, I also have other buttons: feminism, poverty, religion, culture, anti-20 something behavior and beliefs and a whole host of other things. So, if you’ve grown tired of me being on my mental health soap box, I’m getting ready to unveil a new one. I just haven’t decided which one it is yet. Although, I have a feeling it will be domestic abuse for a while, as that is what my NaNoWriMo novel is about and I really need ot express some thoughts. But we shall see.

Thanks for reading!

The Evolution of Self: A Portrait

Years ago I had an art teacher tell me that I was no good at drawing, or coloring, or creativity. Those concepts carried into my time as a high schooler, making me avoid art class with a passion. I chose instead, to put all of my efforts into music-where I learned to play various instruments with adequate skill and sang my  heart out in groups and solo. It is the story of my music education that I will hold onto for another day. When I found myself in a visual art class one year, I went to the teacher and explained that “I sucked”. It wasn’t because I had been certified as an individual without artistic powers or that I wanted mercy in the expectations, but because someone had told the impressionable child-me that I was no good and I carried that with me as my own truth. My high school art teacher told me that I didn’t suck and kept after me to keep trying. When my first entry on a larger project was complimented by TWO art teachers, I was confused.

I thought I sucked.

And yet here I am, a number of years later still and I find both coloring and drawing to be comforting. My skills are unpolished and although I find it relaxing, I would not say I am an artist. If you ever wondered what a difference havig art in classrooms can make, please use this story. If you’ve ever wanted to know why I have the utmost respect for teachers with passion, use this story. And when you combine the two, you’ll understand why this is one of the life-defining moments in my life.

I struggle daily with how to define myself. The labels which have been handed to me do not present a complete picture, and there are not words for the other parts of me. As I explored this, I realized that I am in a transient state, changing, moving and shaping myself constantly. I have no labels, because I do not need them. I am an unfinished work of art, still being planned out by an artist who hasn’t decided where this project will go.

I look back on that moment in high school when I struggled with my identity. Perhaps it’s just high school, perhaps I was different. I didn’t know that by breaking down the walls of my childhood-the misconceptions that I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t worth investing time in-I would be doing the best thing for myself.

It has been 8 years since I stepped foot inside the high school I would graduate from. I was a junior when I took the art class that convinced me I didn’t have to be perfect to make something beautiful. 

I didn’t have to be perfect to make something beautiful.

So here I am, almost a decade after I began my transformation into the adult I will become. I haven’t finished changing, and in fact, I imagine I will be someone new before I finish. But the thing is, those words stuck with me. The teacher I had in high school is both someone whom I admire deeply and a source of great inspiration to me. She pushes me still to see the world in a different way than may be easy, or colorless. And so one of the things I’ve been working on this semester is exploring that change. What I came up with I’ve been putting into writing, becoming more assertive in what I need to say. What I don’t show people often is that I also put my messages into drawings. Sometimes they are tattoo sketches far too big and detailed to be reasonably priced, sometimes they are metaphorical and drawn in an utmost surreal context. But then there’s this piece.

The Evolution of Self: A Portrait

  I so named it that because I wanted to show how my change is both reflective of who I am now, and the product of who I was. I’d like to take a moment and explain what I feel the message is. You don’t have to like it, just consider it.

The basic content is: a waterfall, a phoenix and two sets of hands. That much, I gather you could figure out for yourself. The next layer are the words in the background: Transform, Brave, Love, Acceptance, Beautiful, Hope, Life, Forgiveness, Growth. There is the color scheme to consider, the level of detail (and shading) in the hands, the size of the hands and the “decoration” of the hands, as well as the way the background is set up. 

The nine words are the ones I had to learn the hard way. They are reflective of self, things that were not always easy for me to fully grasp.

The background grows darker, more assertive as it approaches the bigger hands, more concrete. The waterfall is closer to the small hands. The left side of the picture in general is lighter, less defined, more washed out. 

And the hands themselves. On the left, you have a child’s hands. They are reaching out for help, open and expressive. The nails are painted black, and the waterfall is suggestive of losing oneself, “going off the deep end” and trying to “keep my head above the water”. The hands themselves are lightly shaded, as though the owner is becoming invisible. And yet there are bright red marks on the arms-dashes, hope and love. I can promise you that this isn’t a shock-and awe piece, but a true to life representation of the way my arms looked spring of my freshman year. I don’t talk about it often, it isn’t a story too many people know, but now they will. Those two words were the things I wanted most out of life-hope of a better life and love that would heal all wounds. And yes, I really did cut them into my arms with diamond Os and the Es facing vein length. It is honest and brutal.

On the right, there is the me that I am now. older, stronger hands with imperfections (like crooked fingers) reaching out to the younger me, the me that is representative of the 2-3 million people who engage in self harm each year. The right side reaches out, without judgement, offering safety and hope and love to those without. The nails are blue and a silver wedding band is there. But if you look closely, the scars are still there, silent reminders that what was done cannot be undone, but can make you stronger. 

In the end, it was never about being right or being wrong. It was always about being the person who broke free from their shell to embrace something new. I may not be perfect, but I made something beautiful: a new life. And that is the true evolution. Like a phoenix, I took my failures and created brilliance. I cannot wait to see what comes next.